Insurance Business sat down with HDI Global’s Alex Tarantino and Stefan Feldmann to discover more about the insurer’s long industrial legacy and what it means for liability insurance into the future
Though it's a relatively new player in the Australian market, HDI Global has deep roots in Germany, the heartland of Europe’s industrial businesses. Born in Hannover in 1903 as a mutual insurer for the German iron and steel industries, HDI has always worked to remain close to its roots even as it has expanded around the world.
It’s a rich heritage, and one that managing director Stefan Feldmann strives to uphold. Restarting the HDI Global brand (formerly Gerling) after he joined the group in 2010, he has helped the company achieve significant growth over the past nine years. Closeness to industry is an ethos the company retains to this day, Feldmann says, and something that sets it apart from its competitors.
“We are a company which works very closely with clients,” he says. “We are created by industry, for industry, so we tend to build quite a deep dialogue with our valued clients. When we talk to big Australian and New Zealand companies, they like our closeness to the industry.”
“We are created by industry, for industry, so we tend to build quite a deep dialogue with our valued clients. When we talk to big Australian and New Zealand companies, they like our closeness to the industry” Stefan Feldmann, HDI Global
Alex Tarantino, regional underwriting manager for liability, is a more recent arrival at HDI, having joined the company in September, but he still has the better part of two decades in the industry under his belt. Originally hailing from the UK, he arrived in Australia several years ago from Canada,where he successfully established another major insurer’s local liability business.
“It’s the culture that attracted me to work here in the first place,” Tarantino says. “There’s a willingness to actively see how you can help with new challenges and engage with the client and broker more effectively.”
Today, both Feldmann and Tarantino are working to innovate in the current market while also leveraging the strengths of the existing organisation. It’s a marker of an entrepreneurial spirit that dates back to the origins of the company. To this end, HDI opened a Melbourne office in 2015, followed by expansions to Brisbane in 2016 and Perth in 2018. Feldmann also looks after the regional ASEAN office in Singapore.
Bringing the past and present together
Tarantino believes HDI presents an attractive prospect for Australian clients and brokers due to its unique mix of strong legacy and ability to adapt quickly to clients’ needs.
“Australia is quite a mature audience for insurance,” Tarantino says, “so the people we work with tend to like our setup – the legacy of the company is appealing, and they want us to help them along on their journey.”
Feldmann agrees, noting that many businesses find comfort in partnering with a long-standing European organisation that has a long-term commitment to the Australasian market.
“Stability is also key,” Tarantino says. “Liability is in an unusual place at the moment, in part due to amalgamations and withdrawals in the local market, along with London, too. Businesses want a provider who has dealt with situations like this before.”
“You’ve got to have a complete understanding of the client’s business and exposures. If complex claims arise, you’ve also got to have the proposition and capability to handle them” Alex Tarantino, HDI Global
Both Feldmann and Tarantino are also keenly aware of the importance of working with clients to manage risk. HDI has a large team of risk engineers in Australia, all of whom are working to stay on top of the shifting state of the industry. The role is hands-on, and new recruits receive state-of-the-art training in Germany to equip them with both technical skills and a wider appreciation of the company’s culture. HDI also puts a heavy emphasis on having strong lead underwriters in the team.
“We’ve built our credibility with clients and brokers via underwriters who are considered leaders in their field – technically strong and competent, with a sound financial background with high integrity and interpersonal skills,” Feldmann says. “Other people want to be part of that, so it hasn’t been too difficult to attract the people we want.”
For an organisation that doesn’t shy away from the heavier end of liability business, having an effective claims team in place is also essential.
“You’ve got to have a complete understanding of the client’s business and exposures,” Tarantino says. “If complex claims arise, you’ve also got to have the proposition and capability to handle them.”
Accordingly, HDI Global has recently set about attracting the best in the market for liability claims handling, with the aim of complementing its front-end underwriting capabilities.
“From a customer perspective, the true test of any insurer is the confidence they provide around the claims process,” Tarantino says.
“You need to provide underwriting solutions and a high level of service, but you also need to provide confidence that claims will be managed efficiently and deliver the best outcome for everyone.”
Preparing for the future
Looking to the future, it’s evident that technology and digitalisation will continue to have a powerful influence on the entire insurance industry. The most obvious point of contact is data collection, which can help provide better insights into past trends and future predictions.
“We think it’s going to prove particularly valuable in worker-to-worker claims,” Tarantino says. “We want to work with customers who are committed to zero harm and have proven risk management procedures in place. Being able to draw on past and current data will help us assist those clients.”
Both Tarantino and Feldmann also note that international program capabilities will be a key focus for HDI in 2020. Given the withdrawal of so many liability insurers from the Australian market, many ASX-listed companies will be looking for new insurers, and they’re quietly confident that there are good things on the horizon. The group’s long tradition of providing tailored solutions for liability business marks HDI as a premier provider of third-party liability insurance in the region.
“Liability insurance is an essential risk transfer solution for every corporation in Australia and New Zealand,” Feldmann says. “For a liability mutual like us, it’s core to our business.”